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Jon Runyan explains NFL’s decision not to punish Jadeveon Clowney for hit to Carson Wentz

The league’s stance.

Wild Card Round - Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

There are still a lot of questions about the hit by Jadeveon Clowney that knocked Carson Wentz out of the NFC Wild Card game in early January — especially after the NFL failed to fine or punish Clowney for the helmet-to-helmet hit.

The NFL’s Vice President of Policy and Rules Administration is former Eagles tackle Jon Runyan, and he went on 94WIP to talk to Angelo Cataldi about the league’s decision.


The interview started off rather snarky when Cataldi asked Runyan about the negative reaction to the league’s failure to discipline Clowney, and the now-NFL rep did not mince words.

“Well, when the ringleader is a old white guy on the radio, sounding like a politician, spewing stuff that doesn’t have a lot of facts based on it, yeah you can get there.”

Runyan then baited Cataldi by noting he got quiet, and the radio host joked that he was trying to line up opinions from people he respected.

“Here’s the thing about it Angelo. When you go through the whole process, he’s not a defenseless player because he’s not catching a pass. He’s a runner, so he doesn’t have the roughing the passer protection. You go down the list of stuff — unnecessary roughness – it wasn’t a leg whip, it’s not out of bounds, he’s not blocking someone out of bounds. His forward progress had not been stopped and he had not slid feet first. He was not on the ground. The next one is unnecessary running, diving, throwing your body against a player who is [not anticipating contact]. That’s the kind of stuff I used to do when I was on the other side of the field.

He went on to say:

The only one you can get in there is using any part of the player’s helmet or facemask, to ram, butt, or spear an opponent. Note this provision does not prohibit incidental contact by the mask or helmet in the course of a conventional tackle. So when you go back and look back at this play, it’s really, really close. Carson’s elbow is still off the ground as Clowney’s arm – the first thing that contacts Wentz is Clowney’s arm, to his hip and lower back area. Then his shoulder rolls in and then the helmet goes in.

Runyan explained that he wasn’t down by contact following the initial contact, and the continuation of the play was “deemed incidental.” He agreed that there was a helmet-to-helmet hit but that there was incidental helmet contact after the tackle was initiated by another part of his body.

Cataldi pushed back about whether Wentz gave himself up — although he didn’t slide feet first or go down without contact — and that a similar play was called completely differently in the Atlanta game.

But, Runyan explained that they don’t take the resulting injury into account, and they only look at the play when making their decision to fine a player.

Runyan admitted later on that it was right on the line of being a legal hit — riiiiight on the line. Runyan said that Clowney is one of those players that always is right on the line, but he knows how to be careful and not put himself in a situation to get ejected from the game.

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